Fiji Elections 2019

Fiji Elections 2019

Dear Editor,

Fiji holds general elections on Wednesday. The outcome is significant for the people of Guyana in that the two share several similarities in voting patterns. Both countries were colonies of England and both had indentured laborers. Both are multi-racial and multi-religious. And both are ethnically polarized with voters casting ballots based on ethnicity (ethnic parties). The governments of both countries face allegations of widespread corruption, economic mismanagement, bad governance, biased election commission and chair, and vote rigging (skullduggery). Both countries have similar electoral system – Proportional Representation – seats allocated based on percentage of votes obtained). Indians make up 40% of the population and the natives 57%.

Observers are watching the outcome of the Fiji elections carefully to see if there will be political change and how people of different ethnicities vote. Both ethnic groups could see a split in their votes as happened in 2014.

The incumbent party (Fiji First) has been governing for twelve years – after it came to power in a military coup in 2006 and won an election in 2014. Fiji First enjoys multi-ethnic support – with most of its support coming from Indians, who traditionally supported the Labor Party. But the Labor Party leader Mr. Mahen Chaudhry was prevented from contesting elections in 2014 and his party disqualified from the ballot. Thus, Indians switched their support to Fiji First because the military ruler promised them protection from armed hooligans. Almost all the Indians voted for Fiji First in 2014 and there could be a repeat now although the Federation Party has been appealing to Indians. It win three seats last time based on Indian support.

The ruling party is being challenged by (SODELPA, a party of natives) that was also involved in a military coup in 1987 (removing the Indian supported national front government). The people now behind SODELPA governed Fiji through the coup for 12 years before it was defeated by a landslide in elections in 1999 by Chaudhry. However, the Chaudhry government was short lived as it was toppled in a military coup in 2000. Elections were held in 2001 and the ethnic Fijians won – the same figures now behind SODELPA. It won re-election in 2005 but General Bainimarama staged a coup on 2006. A democratic constitution was put in place in 2014.  Bainimara formed Fiji First. Indians supported it.

Opinion polls suggest the incumbent ruler General Bainimarama will retain power.  His challenger is Retired General Rabuka who staged what was described as the 1987 racial coup that toppled the Indians from government. There are rumors that should Bainimarama lose, he could stage another coup. But it seems Bainimarama would prevail because the economy has been growing although there is widespread poverty among natives and Indians. If Indians switch to the Federation Party, Fiji Fist could come up short of a majority.